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  • Something New for Semiconductor Parametric Testing

    The familiar maxim that "time is money" certainly typifies our semiconductor industry where the mass production of chips, boards and systems helps to power our global economy and ever-increasing standard of living. The foundries that manufacture chips have to ensure that the process technology is in fact producing silicon that is within spec, so they have to test the IC products, both parametrically and functionally. One vendor making inroads in this vital parametric test area is called Platform DA, and I've just learned about their new FS series of products that include both hardware test instruments and unique software tools to provide some major benefits:

    1. Speed: faster measurements mean more cost-effective measurements, thereby keeping pace with the effects of increasing process variability and increasing volume of wafers and chips.
    2. Integration: comprehensive solution that includes the hardware instruments, test fixtures, test control and data management software, as well as modeling and simulation tools, all from a single vendor.
    3. Flexibility: modular and expandable test solution that can be configured for all parametric tests, including IV, CV and noise measurements.
    4. Usability: user friendly hardware and software combination that works out of the box with the instruments as a ‘Plug and Play’ solution.


    So what are the components of this FS series of products?

    First up is something called a Source Measure Unit, or SMU, which is the hardware used to test for voltages and currents in semiconductor devices. National Instrument manufactures the SMU hardware and Platform DA optimizes it for sensitivity and speed by leveraging their own proprietary hardware and Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms embedded in the proprietary software. There are two types of SMUs depending on the voltage range and current level measurements required:


    • FS380 - high precision SMU with 0.1fA sensitivity, 200V range 1A maximum.
    • FS360 - medium precision SMU with 1fA sensitivity, 60V range, 3A maximum.

    X-FAB and MFI-fs380-min.jpg

    Included with the FS380 and FS360 is software called LabExpress that really differentiates the PDA solution, with three useful features:


    • Ease of Test: includes Plug and Play features so that it takes a few mouse clicks to get your DUT measured.
    • Ease of Set Up: includes standard measurement routines for: MOSFET, BJT, C, R, D, Varactors, etc.
    • Optimization – includes proprietary AI algorithms that leverage machine learning to speed up the measurements by 2-10X without compromising the accuracy.


    If you need the most comprehensive and precise test for device characterization , rather than production test for process control, then consider adding the LabExpress Advanced Version software, which provide you with:



    • Wafer mapping support (compatible with Cascade and other semi-auto wafer probers)
    • Test Matrix support to enable suitable set up switching
    • More comprehensive IV and CV routines


    If you need to measure 1/f noise, either for noise characterization and modeling or for process control,, then just add the FS300 module to the FS380 or FS360 instruments, with the following specs:


    • ~5s measurement time
    • Bandwidth of 100KHz or 10MHz
    • Minimum noise resolution of 1e-29A2/Hz
    • Maximum output voltage of 100V
    • Maximum input current of 10mA
    • A high roll-off frequency
    • Accurate noise measurements for ultra-low currents
    • Multiple wafer mapping support
    • Optional Random Telegraph Noise (RTN) measurement support

    X-FAB and MFI-fs300-min.jpg

    The final module that can be added on to the FS380 or FS360 is an instrument for measurement of inductance (L), capacitance (C) and resistance (R), or LCR. The LCR module is named the FS336 and the specs are:


    • Frequency range of 4Hz up to 8MHz
    • Internal voltage range from 10mv to 5V
    • Internal current range from 10uA to 100mA
    • External voltage bias range +-40V


    X-FAB and MFI-cv-min.jpg

    Uniquely, when the test is performed for device modeling you can also obtain a software module called MeQLab to the measurement hardware, and facilitate the extraction of suitable device models used in SPICE simulations. This combination of hardware, AI optimized test and model extraction software is a very differentiated combination.

    X-FAB and MFI-meqlab-min.jpg
    Summary
    I'm kind of impressed at how Platform DA has been able to focus on automating the semiconductor parametric test and characterization tasks through high-performance hardware and AI techniques coupled with easy-to-use software. These new products are a powerful combination of hardware and software that addresses a critical need of semiconductor engineers; while still being very cost-effective.

    I remember working at the number one IDM in the world as a circuit designer back in the 70's and 80's, and our new IC designs would live or die by the accuracy of the SPICE models and parameters being provided by the technology development group, so I know how critical it is to have accurate semiconductor measurements and to know if your process is staying within spec or drifting around. This is still very much true for modern process technologies and IC products.

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